Most of these “Leadership Proverbs” I’ve just picked up, absorbed and imbibed by some process of osmosis along the way and don’t know exactly whom they originated from. But when I know I’ll make reference, and when I don’t it’s not that I’m ungrateful or that I want to appear like a genius. It’s genuinely that I can’t remember. So if I’ve flogged something from you let me know and I’ll happily acknowledge it.
What Are You Trying to Achieve?
Most people are pretty good at doing stuff. Getting things done. Working hard. What’s often a lot harder is being clear on exactly what we’re trying to achieve. That question, however, is one of the most important questions to be clear on, and one that needs to be asked early and often. What are we actually trying to achieve? Because without it we can be doing all kinds of good things without doing the things that we really should be doing, and we can be doing all kinds of good things that actually achieve very different things than we are hoping for.
It’s very rare, in my experience, for people to have no idea what they’re trying to achieve. Every now and then you do come across someone. But most of the time it’s just that people have a vague or general sense of where they’re heading, but nothing crystalised. Now I’m not saying the end game needs to be written down and cross-stitched and framed on the wall. What I am saying is that it needs to be crystalised and absolutely clarified so that everyone on the team knows exactly and specifically where we’re trying to get to.
Having a clear picture of the end game helps you to be intentional about what you do, where you spend your time and what you say no to and what opportunities you take. There’s an infinite array of things you could do. But there’s a much smaller group of things you probably should do and an even smaller collection of things you absolutely must do. But working out the difference is next to impossible without knowing what it is you’re trying to achieve. And the clearer that picture is the easier it is to diagnose which category each opportunity falls into.
Without that kind of clarity it becomes very hard to work out whether you’re doing well or not. It becomes very hard to evaluate and run post-mortems on events, or programs, or end-of-year reflections. If we’re not clear on where we’re trying to get to and what we’re trying to achieve it becomes very hard to determine whether we’re achieving it or whether we’re on the right track or moving closer or moving further away. How will we know if we’re doing a good job?
This happens a fair bit in my circles. The group isn’t clear on what we’re trying to achieve, so when we sit down to evaluate the question is asked, “So how do you think it went?” Everyone says, “Good. It went well.” They may or may not add in some reasons why they thought it was good, and we move on. But no one really even knows what we were trying to achieve, let alone whether we achieved it or how close we came, so instead each person has their own idea in their head about what the goal was. And each person’s image of success could be very different from the others. But the discussion continues with the assumption we’re all on the same page, but in reality we’re each using the same words to describe a very different reality. This is the worst kind of miscommunication, where everyone thinks they are being understood and agreement is reached when actually no one’s even speaking the same language.
Knowing what you’re trying to achieve and having it so clear that everyone on your team can articulate it with a reasonable amount of precision and uniformity means that you are more likely to run events, ministries, programs because they help you achieve your goals not simply because you’ve just always done it this way. You won’t run them as museums of past glories or out of nostalgia or because we’re all deep down creatures of habit. “Because that’s how we’ve always done it” will carry less and less weight in discussions and become less and less credible as grounds for something’s continuing existence. You run events, programs and ministries because they help you achieve what you need to achieve.
The key question for every event, program and ministry is: What is it trying to achieve? And is it still achieving that or is there a better way to get there? These are the questions to ask early and to ask often.